#LLAInterview: “I want to awaken the strength of millions of women to remember that they can meet their challenges and make great stories out of their lives,” Guillermina Mekuy, Ex-Minister of Culture & Tourism, Equatorial Guinea, Author & Founder of Clementyne Cosmetics

Image credit: Guillermina Mekuy

Guillermina Mekuy is a writer, political and Equatorial Guinean entrepreneur. She is the former Minister of Culture and Artisan Promotion of the Presidency of the Republic of the Government of Equatorial Guinea. From 2012 to the first half of 2016, Mekuy was the delegate minister of the Department of Culture and Tourism. She is the first woman to hold the position of Minister of Culture and Tourism of Equatorial Guinea.

She was Secretary of State for Culture (2009-2012) and General Director of Libraries and Museums (2008-2009).  She is also the author of Las tres Vírgenes de Santo Tomás (2008) and Three souls for a heart (2011). In 2013, she founded the women’s magazine Meik, the essence of miscegenation , and in 2016, she founded Editorial Mk. She’s also the founder of Clementyne Cosmetics – a skincare brand that caters to the needs any skin type, with a special nod to black and mixed skin.

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Ms Mekuy shares the inspiration behind being a fierce advocate for women empowerment and women rights, how she used her political office to promote inclusion and diversity in Equatorial Guinea, the inspiration behind establishing her businesses (Clementyne Cosmetics & MeikMag), why it’s important for African women to find their voices and use them and what she’d like to be remembered for. Lean in!

Who is Guillermina Mekuy?

Guillermina Mekuy is a woman, a black woman, a person who is proud to belong to that group of women who don’t accept inherited reality and want to make African women, not only have a future of empowerment and in a regime of respect and equality, but also play an important role in all social, political and economic sectors. The work has already started and begun. Africa is a great continent. Humanity was born there and we will also achieve something fundamental for everyone: combining tradition and progress.

Much work remains to be done to empower, position and achieve real gender equality and the promotion and liberation of women in Africa. But we are already on the road; now we only have to continue without anyone stopping every step we take.

Tell us more about your position as ex-minister of Culture and Tourism of Equatorial Guinea.

In my different political responsibilities, we have always wanted women to feel that they’re the protagonists of their decisions through culture. 

I would like to highlight, for example, the creation and organization of the Mekuy Cultural House to support women and girls in the city of Evinayong (Equatorial Guinea). It is currently in its final phase of construction, which represents the fulfilment of an important milestone for the country’s society and culture.

Also, we developed integration policies of different social groups in collaboration with the Spanish Cultural Center: LGBT week in Equatorial Guinea, implementing innovative and inclusive policies. Additionally, we introduced the bibliobus system for populations that lack access to the use of books. There are many projects launched during my tenure which I see are more than nine years of my political life/activities.

The inspiration behind establishing Clementyne Cosmetics. What is the proposal for Clementyne Cosmetics?

Clementyne Cosmetics is a project we have been designing for a long time. We haven’t stopped innovating and researching to achieve the best products for the care of any type of skin, with a special nod to black and mixed skin.

We have joined the best cosmetic laboratories in Spain, with a single purpose: to improve skin health.

Our commitment to skincare is clear – Clementyne aims to inspire women to discover a deep sense of beauty that is uniquely theirs. Let’s not forget that personal care is a part of individual freedom. It is a time that we dedicate to ourselves for our well-being.

Image credit: Guillermina Mekuy

Who are the most important people in your life and how did they impact you?

Without a doubt, they’re my father and mother. They knew how to give me the values, principles and commitment necessary to be able to develop everything I have done and I still have to do. They are without a doubt, my source of inspiration.

I’d like to acknowledge Oprah Winfrey as well; she has been one of my main personal and business references. Her success has been rooted in her perseverance, her defence of the freedom and rights of people, and her unflinching support for gender equality and diversity.

Her program, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” has accommodated thousands of interviews with actors and actresses, politicians, businessmen and businesswomen, people on the front line of the activity and evolution of the society. Oprah is a self-made woman who, in the development of all her professional successes, has put philanthropy at the centre of her work, without forgetting her origins and the needs of others. An example that particularly thrills me is the leadership academy that she created in 2015 to give opportunities to young women who believe in their future and want to grow. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is a great educational benchmark in the United States.

Being a black woman, what differentiates Meikimag from other magazines?

What sets us apart from other publications is our purpose to champion and lead the concept of global diversity, with the aim of breaking traditional standards and giving visibility to new talents and cultural references through a motivating message of success and professional and intellectual excellence.

We look at the present by learning from the past and projecting it into the future. Meikmag breaks from the previous canons and stereotypes by including much of the information demanded by society through design, communication and culture in all its variations. Culture is always enriching and diversity is the essential element of today’s world. 

We don´t create communication channels as isolated events, but we do it to incorporate the different demands and sensitivities that the current population has in a world where nobody is already incommunicado. This is the great difference with other magazines: we don’t confine ourselves in the paradigms of fashion, but we analyze fashion and its applicability to today’s woman. We don’t talk about health in a generic way; rather, we give practical advice to provide the main and best treatments for people.

Nor do we talk about leisure by simply listing plans; instead, we provide readers with feasible, attractive and original possibilities, such as different suggestions for fun, travel and enjoyment. Summarily, we would say to our followers “We are your magazine – the one that accompanies you throughout your day.”

Image credit: Guillermina Mekuy

As a businesswoman, writer, ex-minister, communicator and mother, how do you reconcile business and family life?

When you believe in what you do and surround yourself with a good team of professionals, you can develop your brand easily; by indicating to your team, the objectives and goals that you must achieve and maintaining supervision of the projects, at the same time, trusting in the professionalism and capacity of those who make up that team.

My role is to indicate the path that we must follow to design and achieve, among all, the desired success. All this makes it possible for me to enjoy my work and reconcile, with satisfaction, my family life with my professional life. Seeing my son grow, talk and walk gives me full satisfaction as a mother and as a human being.

And that is why I firmly believe that if the family environment is stable and enriching, the work complements it and the professional projection will develop and closely linked to it.

Editorial MK  focuses on publishing essays, anthologies, novels, travel guides, and self-help books. It also includes a seal called Voces Femeninas that aims to bring together women’s texts that highlight the value of the role of women’s emancipation in various areas of the. XXI. Can you tell us more about it?

Ediciones Mk, through its VOCES FEMENINAS label, wants to tell the stories of many women who today, have no voice. It wants to awaken the strength of millions of women to remember that they can meet their challenges and make great stories out of their lives. We believe that culture and stories build bridges, create ties and generate understanding between people. And that is why our mission also includes putting a book in the hands of hundreds, and if possible, thousands of people in the world that have no access to reading and culture. Without a doubt, it is a project that unites a cultural and social aspect.

In the case of my works, I would say that they have a special sensitivity in common, since they delve deeper into the different characters, reflecting on existential issues of the human being. Thanks to my double culture, African and European, I can transfer both worlds created from another vision and a perspective of understanding life through miscegenation – a vision that allows me to feel especially lucky.

Milestones and achievements.

2020 marks the start of multiple projects, which I have personally developed and which I celebrated with my entire team:

  • Launch of cosmetic brand-Clementyne Cosmetics. It’s a brand designed for all skin types, and for women and men.
  • Positioning of Meik Magazine as a means of communication.
  • Opening and commissioning of the Oyala Gynecology and Fertility Center (Equatorial Guinea). The first in the country and one of Africa’s benchmarks. 
  • Internationalization of my business’ group.
  • Participation in film production and documentaries.
  • Organization of international events, such as the first gyneacology and reproduction congress in Equatorial Guinea.

How has your role, especially as a Minister, inspired women, especially the younger female generations?

Since 2009, I have held political positions that have projected me to be the first woman to occupy the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which in the end when you look back, you see the great cultural legacy that we have left. Contributing to improve the country’s society enriches me personally and professionally. Although, much work remains to be done to empower, position and achieve real gender equality and the promotion and liberation of African women.

If I am proud of anything, it is to belong to that group of women who do not accept the inherited or imposed reality, I believe in progress, advancement, development, and I know that without effort, dedication and passion in what you do, the results are not easy. NOBODY CAN LIMIT OUR DREAMS, HEAVEN IS OUR LIMIT.

Image credit: Guillermina Mekuy

Your book, “Eldania-” tells the story of a young woman from high society in an African country in search of her identity and self-affirmation as a free and independent woman. What tips can you share for women hoping to discover their identities?

Feminism in Equatorial Guinea is emerging from a historical slumber and is positioning itself as in the rest of the world’s societies. As I have answered in the previous questions, much remains to be done to achieve gender equality in the world.

The average age of the African continent is 20 years and the youths represent more than half of its population. Experts believe that almost one billion young people will live in Africa by 2050, thus presenting a future full of opportunities and growth for young African women. Currently, a young African woman, and specifically from Equatorial Guinea, looks at the world with perspective, globally and with the ability to be in an innovative, educated society and as the engine of change in the country.

Legacy/ What you would want to be remembered for.

In this life, there is no reward without risks or determination. I want to be remembered as Guillermina Mekuy, a woman who told her own story by projecting it in her way of life, in her daily activities, through her actions and values, and promoting security and freedom; because everything we do as women, specifically as black women, represents us all. We are the reflection of future generations. I want people to remember me as a woman who told her own story, stepping firmly on the steps of her life and being a part of female empowerment.

 

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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